Hats off to the Kiwi solo sailor who refused to give up on his dream to race round the world


Congratulatons to Graham Dalton on finishing the circumnavigation he began last October in the Velux 5 Oceans race. Race rules prevented him completing it within the timeframe of the event, but Dalton memorably said that “hell would freeze over” before he quit.

A solo circumnavigation is always a struggle, but some people do seem to get more of a fair wind while others appear destined to battle uphill all the way. The 54-year-old Kiwi is in the latter category, for sure.

Nothing about his feat has been easy. A dismasting on the last leg of the Around Alone four years ago crushed his ambition to race round the world. Before he set out to do it again, his son Tony, who had been a great encouragement, died of cancer. During the first leg of the 5 Oceans, his wife Robbie discovered she, too, had cancer and underwent treatment during the first leg, unknown to her husband.

Dalton’s own misfortunes were numerous: his mast was blown off trestles and damaged just before the start. Rudder and sail damage forced him to make stops in Medeira and the Kerguelan Islands, his food supplies were contaminated by a diesel leak, his electronics were stolen during a pitstop in Brazil, then his keel bulb fell off in port and he had to build a new one.

Finally, when Dalton left to try to catch the fleet up he ran into a storm near Bermuda, suffered autopilot failure and was forced into port again. That made it impossible to join the restart of the race in time for the last leg from Norfolk to Bilbao.

By continuing anyway he has demonstrated the indomitable will and stubborn determination to succeed that are the hallmarks of the true adventurer. You have to take your hat off to his gritty persistence.